Mistakes Are Proof That You Are Trying

No mistake is proof you succeeded.

I recently partook in a webinar on peer-to-peer fundraising hosted by a well-known company. The moderator, who was very intelligent and experienced, talked about the key groups a volunteer fundraiser has and how to determine their “infinity” toward the project. Yes, infinity was written on the slides, and it made me cringe for the moderator. Everyone knew she meant affinity, but infinity was staring us in the face.

Sadly, this mix-up made me question the credibility and aptitude of the presenter when, in reality, we have all been in her position at some point in our lives. Everyone makes typos, mixes words up, or leaves out punctuation, but there is an easy solution:


Proofreading is one of the most valuable and critical skills anyone can have when dealing with donors. Proof your emails, your letters, your notes, and anything and everything that is put in front of someone outside of your organization. Do not let someone question your credibility or intelligence by making a simple mistake.

I know proofreading isn’t exactly a novel concept, but it is something that often gets passed over in our haste to meet deadlines or get to the next item on the to-do list. People tend to rely on autocorrect and spell check, but the smallest of mistakes can slip through the cracks.

The University of Wisconsin Class of 1988 received two diplomas. The first was from “The University of Wisconson.” The second, from Wisconsin, came six months later, after someone noticed the error. The University of Wisconsin incurred the added cost of reprinting and reissuing new diplomas to every member of the graduating class.

What could it cost your organization if a donor’s name is misspelled?

7 Proofreading Tips:

  1. Sleep on it. Give it a second look the next day with fresh eyes and a clear mind. Or, if time is limited, wait 15-20 minutes or a couple hours.
  2. Read it out loud to catch mistakes. Say each word to hear the flow of the sentences and then say each word individually to make sure it is the correct word (i.e., there versus their).
  3. Check for one problem at a time (i.e., spelling, word choice, or punctuation). Completely concentrate on one problem instead of trying to catch multiple types of errors at one time.
  4. Proof from a print out and not on a computer screen. Reviewing in a different format allows the reader to catch different errors.
  5. Triple check facts. Check names, dates, addresses, facts, and other figures multiple times to ensure accuracy.
  6. Ask a co-worker to proof. Even after proofing several times, a second person can often find something that has been looked over. Sometimes a person becomes too familiar with their work and needs an outside opinion.
  7. Consult the AP Style Book or MLA Handbook. Keep up to date on all Associated Press or Modern Language Association rules for editing and proofing by referencing the latest books.

What tips or tricks do you have for catching those proofreading mistakes?